Emmet Till’s mother was a member of our church. His coffin sat not more than 20 feet from where our family pew was situated. The sight of his body and the mutilation it had undergone left and indelible mark on my psyche. I remember the movies of the jurors and the towns people where the trial was held. It was frightening to me. It was the first time I ever understood that people can do some terrible things to other human being and have no shame.
I watched a video of the SF Critical Mass Ride this past week. I shuddered as I watched what was unfolding. A lone female in a ZipCar was trying to get to her destination. A group of cyclists deliberately crossed into the opposite lane to detain her. It was an unnecessary confrontation and it got ugly.
- Calling A Spade A Spade (BeezodogsPlace)
- The Chicago Urban Cycling Community which spends an plenty of time discussing crashes that take place in other states between cars and bikes had nothing to say about this confrontation. Why is that?
- The entire confrontation was on video. Thank goodness that the video was there to help the police document the situation and bring charges against the thugs who attacked the vehicle in which this young lady was driving. The weapon of choice seems to have been the U-lock.
- I searched and found nothing from the SF Bicycle Coalition on the even either. It was as if it had not happened. Why would that group not take a chance at ‘calling out‘ this bad behavior?
Groups like the ones in Mississippi and those in San Francisco take on a life of their own. They keep their members in control by means of either intimidation or the rather lame notion that saying or doing anything that brings confirmation of the thuggish behavior of the group is a direct threat to
‘The Good of The Community‘
I have heard this line offered up by Chicago Critical Mass participants as if it were some sort of religious mantra.
Here Is What I Think
First and foremost the Urban Cycling Movement should be less about bicycling and more about finding a way through the morass of death that has been created by a transportation landscape that has vehicles traveling too fast for conditions and doing so unfortunately in those very locations where bicycles and pedestrians are likely to be.
Second the rallying cry should be about the death of people. People who die are not just cyclists, or pedestrians or motorists. They are our neighbors and friends and even family. When they die it should not only be those who share our mode of transportation whose lives we remember. Instead it should be a time to reflect on the number of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists who have died and not just at the hands of motorists. We have pedestrians who die at the hands of we cyclists as well.
Third there is no community except the Community of Mankind. If our focus is simply on ourselves then the video is self-explanatory. It is easy to understand how people who should be out front in ‘calling out‘ this behavior are likely instead to be silent and engaged in deflection to ally the fears and anger of the general public.
Fourth we do not pay the folks who head these advocacy organizations to do anything less than lead. If they cannot do that I would kindly suggest they find some other scam to engage in where the money is better and the thugs are more subtle.
Emmett Till Was Killed In A Climate Of Conspiracy
The people of Mississippi are owed an apology from me. Those ‘Good Ole Boys‘ were not the problem. The ‘real problem‘ is the disjointedness of Our Society. We as a People are fractured into groups whose own survival is paramount. I repent of ever thinking that a cyclist could rise about this sort of fractiousness. We cannot, because we are trapped in our humanity.
And to the extent that we keep perpetuating our fractiousness by conducting memorial rides that ignore our complicity in the deaths of our fellow citizens we are complicit in this.
We should be honorable and admit that we cyclists have been waging a ‘War on Cars‘. There is no other explanation for singling out a single female alone in a rental car heading perhaps towards home and detain her without provocation. Had she been a group of six burly motorcycle club members squeezed into that tiny vehicle, no one would have had the courage to terrorize her.
But like that group in Mississippi one night so very long ago men with the same kinds of wickedness in their hearts descending on a small child and decided to end his life, simply because they could. Their culture allowed that sort of behavior.
Evidently the Critical Mass Ride is also accepting of that sort of behavior as well. How else do you explain the fact that the cameras were kept running as the thugs went to work? And even more damning is the fact that in Chicago and San Francisco nothing passed the lips of the leaders of the Urban Cycling Movement regarding the outrageous behavior demonstrated in the name of the Critical Mass Ride.
Who Will Stand Up?
I despair that the passage of time since the death of Emmett Till has not brought much in the way of accountability. Had this video not been recorded who would have stepped forward to ‘bear witness‘?
There would have been ‘shaming‘ within the ranks of the Urban Cycling Movement that any such action would have been to the detriment of ‘The Good of the Community‘. What sort of community is it that does such things and then decides to ignore it afterwards?
We do not need Bicycle Advocacy Groups. We need people who are sick and tired of having to attending funerals. We need people for whom ‘ALL LIVES MATTER‘ is not a slogan but a reality. We need people who claim a salary as leaders to step up and proclaim that the death of a single motorist, pedestrian or cyclist is evidence that our work is not done.
We need people who understand that winning over the hearts of and minds of motorists about the problem is paramount. That does not come at the bend of a U-lock. It comes from riding to visit the scenes of crashes that occur to anyone and everyone on the roads.
It should not matter to any of us that the fellow who last expired was black or an Asian. It should not matter their gender or sexual orientation. None of us is safe if we are not all safe. The only community for which we should strive is the ‘Human Community‘.
We need to end this division along the lines of our transportation choices.
How we choose to transport our families or get to and from work is not the issue. It is whether we can do it safely.